Turkey working with Russia, Iran to avoid another Aleppo disaster in Idlib: Erdoğan

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Turkey is working with Russia and Iran on Syria’s Idlib province “to avoid another Aleppo disaster,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said.

Turkey has intensified contacts with Russia and Iran in recent days amid escalating tension over an impending military operation by the Syrian army into the rebel-held Idlib province of the war-torn country.

The U.N. worries that the offensive could force 2.5 million people toward the Turkish border.

“We are conducting joint work with the Russians and Iranians on Idlib to avoid another Aleppo disaster,” Erdoğan said during a Victory Day reception at the presidential palace in Ankara on Aug. 30.

Thousands of refugees had fled to Turkey after the regime assault targeting Aleppo in 2016.

Fearing a similar military offensive by the regime, the U.N. envoy for Syria proposed Aug. 30 that civilians holed up in Idlib could evacuate to government areas.

“Short of going to Turkey, the civilians have no other option in order not to be where fighting may take place,” Staffan de Mistura told reporters of the evacuation plan.

The battle of Aleppo was one of the worst in the seven-year-long civil war, which ended with the victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Russia and Iran. Syria-based rights group had accused Russian airstrikes of killing 1,207 civilians, 380 of them children, in the Aleppo offensive.

From Manbij to Qandil

The Turkish president also vowed to “follow an active policy in all problematic areas” in foreign policy.

“We are seeking ways to cleanse Manbij from terrorists by talking to the Americans,” he added. “Our preparations continue to remove terror areas in the east of the Euphrates [River] one by one.”

The Manbij roadmap was announced after a June 4 meeting in Washington between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo.

The deal focuses on the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij, which Turkey deems to be an offshoot of the illegal PKK. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Ankara, the U.S. and the European Union.

The first patrols by Turkish and U.S. troops in the region began on June 18 and joint patrols are expected to start soon.

Erdoğan also touched upon Turkey’s operations in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains, where the PKK has its headquarters.

“We are trying to secure the Qandil direction of our border with Iraq, which has continuously been a source of problem since 1984, to abolish a 34-year-old plot,” he said on Aug. 30.

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